Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Week of October 28, 2007

Schedule: On Sunday, October 28th, I spent some time knocking on a few doors in the district just to keep in touch with constituents. It is very easy to become isolated from the district at the Capitol, so I wanted to see what is on their minds. On Tuesday, October 29th, I sat in on part of a House Education Finance Reform Work Group chaired by Rep. Greiling. The presenter from P.S. Minnesota outlined how the state's education formula can be changed to be simpler and to make it more effective to local needs. On Wednesday, October 30th, I sat in on a meeting of the Legislative Electric Energy Task Force, where it had presentations on nuclear energy, transmission lines, and electricity distribution. On Thursday, November 1st, I attended a meeting of the 35W/E Coalition, an effort of several north metro cities to coordinate their transportation and land use decisions. (The cities include Hugo, Lino Lakes, Centerville, Forest Lake, and Columbus.)

Visitors: On Sunday, October 28th I met with a bridge collapse survivor from the district about the experience. (In the interests of this person's privacy, I'll just leave it at that.) On Monday, October 29th at the Capitol, I met with a house researcher on a consumer issue; two staffers from Hennepin County and a county lobbyist about proposed compost legislation; staff from the Anoka County Community Action Program about energy assistance programs; legislative affairs staff from the University of Minnesota about their proposed bonding package for 2008 (watch short on-line video presentations on-line); staff and police from the City of Minneapolis about my scrap metal legislation and a bill that would change regulation of pawn shops; and staff from the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District. On Tuesday, October 30th, I met with a lobbyist for the American Chemistry Council & American Plastics Council who introduced me to their new regional director.

Constituent contacts: North Oaks resident about pay-for-performance for doctors; Shoreview resident grateful for support on environmental issues; Shoreview resident pleased with new Shoreview-to-Minneapolis express bus service; Shoreview resident upset that Governor is not supporting a comprehensive transportation package; Shoreview resident suggesting sentencing reform for drug crimes; Shoreview resident promoting Oklahoma's approach to illegal immigration; Lino Lakes resident commenting on remarks of the President of the Taxpayers League of MN about education

A West Virginia resident also e-mailed all MN legislators recommending that we work to repeal the 17th amendment, which allowed for direct election of U.S. Senators, rather than having state legislatures select them. (This amendment passed in 1913 as a way to avoid the "smoke-filled room" method of picking U.S. Senators and to combat political machines. It was a hallmark of the Progressive Era, as was the push to create a direct primary for state offices instead of just relying on endorsements by party insiders.)

The meeting on the Mosquito Control District was intriguing, since most local residents don't know when the MMCD is spraying or applying treatment in their area. Here's a link to the MMCD's frequently asked questions page. The main objective when they use helicopters is to drop a "natural soil bacterium" (bacillus thuringiensis israelensis) on wetlands, although the MMCD does "fog" with a pesticide (the neurotoxins permethrin and resmethrin) for adult mosquitoes by request from cities. Permethrin is toxic to fish and cats.

You may have seen some TV reports about the President of the Taxpayers League (and my predecessor) and his comments about education recently. Although healthy and articulate debate about education should always be welcome, I found many of the comments to be disappointing and without any basis from data.